posted on Sep, 1 2013 @ 05:02 PM
I’m still exploring the intended meaning of the Song of Songs.
The final passage I’m considering is the remainder of the eighth chapter, ch8 vv11-14.
(The translation being used is the RSV)
I need to explain my naming of the “speakers” in these passages.
The two main characters of the Song are frequently called “the Lover” and “the Beloved”, giving the first name to the male.
Those labels make the male the active pursuer, following the conventions of romance.
They mask the reality of this poem, that the woman is patently doing most of the pursuing.
That should be one of the clues that this is not a conventional romance.
So I’m calling these characters “the Woman” and “the Loved One” in that order.
This poem has been describing the relationship between the Woman and her Loved One.
I’ve already proposed that this is the relationship between God and his people.
vv11-12 These verses continue the optimistic theme which can be found in the previous verse.
“Peace” has been mentioned, and Solomon’s name is related to the word for “peace”.
We see a contrast between two different vineyards.
Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon which brought him an income of a thousand pieces of silver from his tenants, who presumably had something left
over for themselves.
The second vineyard is the one which the Woman calls her own.
This vineyard, like the first, will give to Solomon his thousand pieces of silver, but it also allows two hundred pieces of silver for the tenants.
Whether this means two hundred each, or two hundred between them, I think we should take this to be a larger share than they were getting before.
Thus the point would be that the second vineyard is more profitable, and more beneficial to the people engaged in it, than the first vineyard had
The moral of the story would then be that “the last is better than the first”.
For the Woman reproached herself in the first chapter, that she had not “kept” (protected) her vineyard, yet her vineyard is now a source of
pleasure and pride.
We may recall the promise of Jeremiah, that the new covenant will be better than the old covenant, because it will be written upon men’s hearts-
Jeremiah ch31 vv31-34.
For the Christian reader, there’s also the gospel echo of “You have kept the good wine until now”- John ch2 v10.
Here is no need, in short, to regret the blessings of the past, because the blessings that are coming will be even greater.
The new Jerusalem will be even better than the old Jerusalem.
The new Life will be better than the old life.
v13-14 The poem closes with the two appeals.
In the first, the Loved One calls the Woman an inhabitant of the gardens, and tells her that he and his companions are longing to hear her voice.
This recalls the previous occasions when he’s been summoning her; the call of the gazelle in ch2, the invitation to explore the mountains in ch4,
the appeal to the dancer at the end of ch6.
In the second appeal, the Woman calls the Loved One a gazelle or young stag, and repeats the invitation of ch2 v17, that he should join her on the
“mountains of spices”.
Both appeals are against the continued state of separation.
“Make haste, my beloved” is the emotional equivalent of the Christian’s “Even so, come Lord Jesus”.
Which makes it a very appropriate conclusion to this poem.
So we find the Woman speaking in the closing verse of the Song of Songs, as we found her speaking in the opening verses.
The Song ends, as it began, with the affirmation of the Woman’s love.
This is a story told mainly from the Woman’s perspective, concerning the relationship between the Woman and her Loved One.
“My beloved is mine and I am his”.
At first sight, the Song of Songs looks like an ordinary love-poem, and is often interpreted that way.
I suggest that it belongs to the genre of “love poetry” to the same extent that Kings and Chronicles belong to the genre of “history”, or
Proverbs belongs to the genre “collection of proverbs and wise sayings”.
In each case the literary genre has been given a spiritual dimension.
It is easy to see that the “historical” books are not just pure secular history, but have been used to say something about the relation between
God and his people.
We find in Proverbs not just secular wisdom, but warnings against different kinds of unrighteousness.
Similarly the writer or compiler of Song of Songs has taken the genre of “love-poetry” and adapted it, turning it into another picture of the
relationship between God’s people and their God.
Many scholars believe, for language reasons, that the poem was more probably written in the period after the Return from the Babylonian Exile.
In which case the “life-situation” of the poem can be seen as a response to the disaster of the Fall of Jerusalem.
The story of the poem goes like this;
The early chapters are nostalgic, looking back to the “honeymoon” period of the relationship, when the two lovers, God and his people, could enjoy
each other’s company and enjoy the land together.
This honeymoon period is identified, retrospectively, with the kingdom of Solomon.
The nightmare episode of the fifth chapter is central in every way, because it represents the catastrophe caused by the power of Babylon, when the
relationship between God and his people appeared to be broken.
The two themes of the chapters thereafter are the sense of loss and the sense of renewed hope.
They are assured, over and over again, that they have not lost their God after all.
The final note of the poem is the prospect of complete reconciliation
A different response can be found in the allegories of Ezekiel ch16 and ch23.
These allegories are complaining about the idolatries of the old kingdoms, in terms of sexual jealousy, and the language can be so bluntly and
brutally sexual that the passages cannot be read in church services.
I believe this love- poem was deliberately intended as a more optimistic and benevolent version of the same kind of allegory.
So the intended purpose of the poem would be to encourage God’s people to believe in his love towards them, despite the discouraging aspects of
their situation, and to remain faithful.
Therefore the most natural way of understanding this poem is that the people who placed the book among the sacred writings of Israel, believing it to
have a sacred meaning, were correctly grasping the writer’s intentions.